Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On the river Styx: My lengthy conversation with Charon

I've been riding for about 16 months now...and in that time, I have yet to have a "bad" day on the bike...until yesterday. Looking back at all the days leading up to yesterday, one could say that I've had my share of setbacks, disappointments, painful learning moments and even an exhaustive life and death epiphany. However I have always been able to find some joy in the day, regardless of the inability to meet a goal or the failure of a bike part or a body part. Even on the really bad days, I always felt assuaged by the mantra that tomorrow is another day.

Yesterday was "bad" on so many unexplainable levels, it defies reason. Part of my catharsis here is to get it all out to understand why it was bad. Let me define "bad" before moving on. "Bad" to me means, I found no enjoyment in what I did. Plain and simple: there was not a single element of what I did yesterday that I found enjoyment in.

The blame game could go something like this: I was dehydrated from too many Arrogant Bastards the night before (never been a problem for me), I have not really ridden since the Crazy 88 (it's not like I've never taken it easy for a 2-week clip), I had heartburn from the nachos the night before (I always have heartburn from the nacho's the night before), blah, blah, blah. As I look at all of these excuses....none of them rate as to be a significant factor as to why I found no joy in the ride yesterday.

Right off the bat....the air was cool and moist as I pushed away from the house; my muscles straining past the 2-week rest to come back to life. I told myself that I would not be hammering today....I did not have a goal and I would just go where my heart told me....little did I know that my heart led me to a new and dark place.....a place where the seeds of joy could find no purchase.

Climbing up mudflaps....my muscles felt unusually tired and the sweat poured off of my body. Telling myself that the humidity was much more a factor than what I had imagined...I still easily cleaned the hill even though it was mentally tougher than it had been in a while. Topping out....I decided to stop and take a look at the view before me. This is not normally part of my routine...at least for the past 3 months. Having focused on mileage and speed....stopping for pictures was just not much of what I did. Perhaps I had lost a little of what I had originally started out to do when I took my very 1st ride on the bike over a year ago. As I looked NE to the McDowell's, the humid air blanched the view just enough to make the clouds ringing the middle elevations of the range look like the mountains featured in those North Korean propaganda paintings featuring Kim Jong Il, mounted on his steed; the glorious mountains off in the distance....beautiful and inviting, yet foreboding and dark.

Pushing away after taking the view in....I found myself coasting downhill....not pedaling up to speed so I could enjoy the banked corners and whoop-de-doos that rewards riders after mudflaps.....the thought hit me in the chest like a branch of cholla sticking out into the trail on Wild Horse......I'm riding my bike...not driving it....riding it! I can't remember the last time I rode my bike. Again....without a long term goal...I felt aimless, wandering in my purpose. I was simply riding along...not knowing where I was going, where I wanted to go...how I wanted to get there. I had a loose idea that I just wanted to do 20 miles....but this sense of commitment ate at me. The idea of setting a goal and then sticking to it gnawed at me even more.

Mindlessly turning north onto saddleback...I still found myself lollygaggin along....not finding the inspiration to hammer down the hills to enjoy Disneyland....but not enjoying the ride either. For a time, I shut this void of emotion out of my head and turned onto secret...stalling out in a sandy area just off the entrance. I silently cursed myself for being so lame as to not negotiating this section like a respectable bike handler....very lame. As I pushed my bike uphill to a good starting point...I told myself I needed to either step it up...or perhaps just turn for home and drink beer all day. Strangely....neither inspired me. It was as if my Id and it's bifurcated emotional process had been taken over by a gang of nihilistic neurons. Moving through the sandy washes in the canyon...I noticed that the wash had been beat up by the steps of a number of riders before me...each stalling out and hoofing it...as I was forced to do as well. It was at this point that I laid my bike down.....and just walked off.

Looking up at the steep granite walls as I stumbled up canyon, I spied an impossibly green ocotillo that I had not noticed before...so I climbed up to it. I briefly thought it strange that out of all the ocotillo I'd seen lately, none had been nearly as green as this one, given the absence of rain during our "nonsoon" season. Yet this one was as green as a vine of kudzu...oddly out of place. Looking back at my bike....I felt oddly detached from it...it laying on it's side in the sand of the wash...me perhaps 10 feet above it in the canyon wondering why I was here. I had a strange thought that it would be odd if I continued up the canyon....never to come back. What would someone think as they rounded a turn and found a blue pivot laying in the wash without an owner. Perhaps the blue of the bike would strike them similarly as the green ocotillo did for me....or perhaps they would think....hey, free bike.

Moving on...I climbed higher onto some larger boulders, some of which had been finely polished by sand running over them during flash floods. In such a dry canyon, I mused it must have taken 10's of thousands of years to get that kind of polish on such an intermittent drainage. Duly impressed with this level of commitment by nature, I was aware of my lack of commitment in anything at the moment. I sat down and stared up at the walls, down at my bike...still detached from me, not just physically...but emotionally. I had thoughts that perhaps I should just lay here for 30 minutes...an hour....several hours....all day. All was quiet save the cactus wren farther up the canyon walls. I had not seen a single rider...I was all alone.

However I became restless and eventually descended back to my bike. Hah! My bike......as I picked it up....it felt foreign to me. In an almost begrudging fashion....I got back on and continued up the trail in much the same fashion as before....just riding along...coasting....slowly cresting the hills. I came to the granite step area which I had previously taken an endo on earlier in the week.....I cleaned it without much of a thought and moved on. Coming to the mine/saguaro/saddleback intersection....I saw movement out of my right eye and then heard some conversation....two people trail running down. If I had been driving my bike instead of riding...I would have pressed on so as to not have the runners direction dictate where I would go...but I stood there...paralyzed....looking up at the top of mine to my north. As the runners came close, I vaguely recognized them as Waltaz and CoyoteKis...Waltaz said "hey dude"....I automatically said "hey" back.....but was far off into an aloofness which perhaps bordered on an out of body experience. As they continued running downhill on saguaro...I realized that it would be stupid for me to turn home to only have to force them to get off the trail to let me pass....so I felt compelled to continue on up the hill.

I wanted to take a self-flagellation approach to this ride yet secretly wanted to enjoy the ride.....to stop and smell the ocotillo....but felt bad for wanting to do so....at the same time....cursing myself for not allowing me to enjoy these moments. Conversely, I was not hammering...so I was also hating myself for not committing to pushing myself. I was on the river Styx....with the fitness ride on one bank and the enjoyment ride on the other...my lengthy conversation with Charon was the only thing which felt right....yet I knew I had to get off the boat somewhere. Quite simply, I had never been here before. I was neither having fun, nor was I pushing myself....I was squarely in the middle of the two. Confused as to what this meant and how I could get out of it...I pedaled on blindly up mine, reaching the intersection and turning right to Twisted Sister.

I briefly thought....why did I turn right instead of left (the way home)....but then stopped short of answering it....I kept on going. On good days, I can clean all the up's on Twisted save 2 tricky spots. On bad days, there are 2 additional ups which give me fits. Today....I failed to clean most of them...again cursing myself for my lack of commitment. If I wanted a fun ride...I should have stayed in the canyon......or.....if I wanted a funner ride, I should have committed to a 50 miler on this day somewhere in the pines.... or I should have been pushing this ride to my physical limit. Again...I was in the space between the two....clearly uncomfortable with this place in it's unfamiliarity. Charon was laughing at me as he oared the ferry along...me, it's only passenger.

Descending down past big rock, I found myself again coasting lazily along...not sure of what to make of my situation. I again came to a crossroads where I had the option of continuing north to the road to bail on my ride. At this point, a little instinct from he past few months took over and told me I needed to keep my legs moving to loosen them up after my rest period, so I tuned east onto Wild Horse. I reasoned that the easy miles should allow me to hammer out some calories. Clearly, I had not been listening to my inner dialogue going on over the past hour.

I approached Wild Horse much as I had the ride up until this point.....lollygaggin along. I never even attempted to hammer out a thing.....the trail seemed like it went on forever. As I looked at my total mileage on the day, I was dismayed at the number 12.....12 miles....and I felt like crap. I thought back to the crazy 88 and the feeling of elation at mile 44 coming back into schultz....I had more energy after 44 miles than I had at the start. Now here I was at mile 12...on the most benign section of trail around me....and it was beating me. I struggled for a way to fight back...but could not come up with anything. I felt pathetic for feeling this way....this is what it must feel like to be a quitter.....never committing to anything past the initial point of confrontation...the first instance of struggle....the initial view of adversity. I was out of sorts, out of place and out of coping mechanisms.

It was at this point that I just resigned myself to being miserable....Mile 12 turning to mile 13...and on, and on and on. I became conscious of my quads and how they felt. My self loathing turned up yet another notch. They felt like my quads at mile 72 just 2 weeks ago. Not gone....but they were getting there. Incredulous at this notion....I continued on....looking up a the peaks around me, searching for some salvation in the form of the view of Pass Mountain which meant that I was rounding these hills which stood in my way between my place of self-hatred...and home.

Turning onto the road....I had committed to going home the easy way. Roadies were passing me and I did not care. In previous months....I would draft and challenge these roadies on my big knobbies...and made a pretty good show of it on the uphills, only to loose the battle on the downhills. Today...I was not challenging a thing....the things...were challenging me.

My last bit of self-hatred came as I approached Hawes road....I could continue on and take an easier way if I continued straight (less climbing), or I could turn north and finish out my ride by one last climb. I figured that I deserved more punishment for being such a piece of crap...so turned north and churned out the climb. I was able to exercise some semblance of pace on this stretch....straining against the gears....not giving up to my falling momentum. For the 1st time today, I was fighting back by refusing to downshift. Cresting the hill...I noticed an overweight roadie with his bike set up triathlon style, fully equipped with water bottles ready for a time trial for which I smugly assumed would never happen. I loathed this man....for his lack of commitment and his basic lack of understanding that lycra is not a right...it's a privilege. I now see that my loathing of him was reflective of my self hatred this day....except for the lycra part....I feel I look fine in lycra...I just choose not to. This man was doing circles around a roundabout as I passed him at the top of the climb....I wondered what he was doing...perhaps resting after his 300 foot climb before returning home to his hot pocket microwave dinner.

In any event....he passed me 30 seconds later on the down hill as I was doing what I'd been doing all day long....riding along in a bubble of.....blechhhhh. But seeing this piece of shit pass me....something snapped. I can only liken it to the switch in the mind of a German Shepherd as it sees a rabbit run in front of them.....yeah....it was like a bolt of lightning. Without even thingking....I dropped the bike into the big ring, stood up and cranked........20 mph....25.......I passed the fat ass in a flash on his right and kept on going.......27.....29....coming to a stop sign.....I saw the road was clear....I drove on through...only to see a black bmw coming at me in the other lane.....I swerved right to pass behind them....hopped a curve onto a sidewalk.......hopped back off on the otherside and continued on down.....cranking......cranking.

Rolling into my driveway...I put my bike away...went in the house....and laid on my ass the rest of the day drinking beer. I was spent, beat, demoralized. I've tried not to think about it much except for this rambling post. But today I plan to go out again with no expectations. I vaguely remember a time when I used to ride...early in my learning days...when just riding was pure enjoyment. Since then, goals have taken over. Goals to be a better climber, goals to ride farther each and every weekend. Perhaps this is what I've been missing all these months. With a goal...riding to meet a metric of performance became the fun for me. Seeing me progress against that metric is what I like to do. But something so ethereal as....riding just to ride....how does one measure success against that....how do I define failure?

These are questions for which I will not find an answer sitting here while typing. The answers will not be discovered in a hop-infused epiphany. Perhaps only out of tradition....better yet....automation of routine, will I find my answer. I know nothing else but to ride each day. I don't know if I have the ultimate faith that riding will answer my salvation from the strange place I found myself....but I know of nothing else to do. I will continue to ride...and have confidence that yesterday was a fluke. I'm going to ride today, but will be taking my armor to session some trial areas. I know this will be fun...because I have a goal....to ride a complex technical set of features only 5 feet in length. I just wonder if, on days where I don't have a goal.....is not having a goal......good enough to serve as a goal? And if that is to be true...then how will I measure my success or failure at not having a goal?

I think i just found my next goal......

Friday, August 21, 2009

Penny Stove

I was forced to back out of a planned night ride last night.....I hate backing out of rides...more importantly, I hate not riding. I took a digger Tuesday morning on a section of trail that I have not crashed on in over 7 months. I guess that after my very first run down Geronimo last Saturday, my idea of gnar has been elevated and I have been hitting the every day stuff a little harder. Sam posted a great video of last Saturdays ride (check for my nice hair in the credits) found here in HD -(give the link a few minutes to load before it plays). Anyways...On Tuesday, I burped my front tire on some granite steps which sent me OTB...making first contact on terra firma with my left knee....always my knee. I finished the ride, not looking forward to the task of removing 1-hour old scab to tweeze out clasts of feldspar, quartz and mica from deep in the many recesses of my knee. What followed was the same ole-same-ole: cleaning, drying and hoping...hoping that the scab would start to heal enough for the Wednesday night ride. Wednesday night was postponed to Thursday night....did I just blow your mind? Good...lets continue....Thursday night I bailed on my riding buddies. Now I sit here on Friday morning....hoping that it will be good to go for Saturday....the last thing I want to do is sit around and drink beer.

In any event...last night, rather than sulking about not riding...I put my idle hands to work to make my 1st penny stove. I've been intrigued by the bikepacking thing, and since I've proved to myself that I can do 80 miles in a day without my knee leaving me stranded as cougar bait...I'm going to take a run at it. 1st order of business is to lighten my load....so the MSR whisperlite has got to go. At 14.5 oz's dry....add more for fuel and the canister.....it's easily going to be over a 1.5 lbs of stuff that I don't feel like carrying.

Enter....the penny stove. It weighs in at a svelte 2.3 oz's with another 3oz's of "fuel" for an overnighter.....isopropyl alchohol...or my favorite...everclear, since you can drink it, use it as a disinfectant, or fuel your stove. Gotta love multiple use items! Best of all, I get to make it myself...and I have to use beer cans to make it.

Entering the grocery...I could not remember which size Heineken cans I needed, so I bought a case of the 12'oz cans and 2 of the 24oz'ers just to make sure....I hate multiple trips! Upon getting home, I realize that...bummer...I only needed the 12 oz cans. Gee...what am I going to do with the extra 48 oz's of Heineken?????

The tools are ready, the extra beer is being disposed of.

As I started cutting metal with the Dremel, I realized....perhaps I need eye protection. I don't own safety goggles....but my ski goggles might work.....

Safety first kiddos.....the helmet I added just in case the can came up to smite me in the noggin....

After I laid the parts out...I read more of the directions (I hate reading directions)....I realized that I needed another can, smaller than the Heineken....bummer. Guess it's time to fish out that "la bala de plata" I had hidden in the fridge....and drink it. Dang...this is getting hard...what with the 12 page directions I "apparently" should have pre-read and the emptying of the cans....

OK....a few cuts made....two Heines down....working on emptying the Coors....

...and low and behold....after emptying the coors and cutting it....I see it is too small (inside can) for the diameter of the Heineken can(outside can)....guess I need to modify another Heineken can....Crack!

The burner part is all drilled and crimped.....

popping it into the fuel base.....this is the basic assembly...

1st light in the sink for safety reasons.....

and final test to see how it stacks up to the instructions standard burn times and efficiency rating to boil 2 cups of water....

Overall...I feel pretty good about the build. I have noticed that my burner holes are perhaps a bit too large and positioned too close to the outside wall of the fuel cup, leading to a combined ring of flame rather than discrete jets. However the total burn time on 3/4 oz of isopropyl in the test was just 30 seconds less than the standard posted times and I managed to boil 2 cups of water in 6:23....so not too bad. I'll be drinking more Heineken tonight and making another burner part with smaller jets and better crimping to see if I can generate those perfect discrete jets.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lili Von Schtupp

A neighbor of my fathers had a bike he was not using and casually mentioned that if I knew anyone who needed a town bike, he would give it to them. I've been casually looking for a town bike since riding LaFawnduh to the bar is a bit overkill....ok, it's a lot of overkill. Anyways, I had heard that this was a "Dutch" bike...not really knowing what that meant, but decided to take a look. After looking at her, she obviously needed a little work, but I could not in full conscious take this bike for free. So after some pushing...I got the friend to finally offer up a form of payment. He wanted a bottle of Scotch for it.....I said, "OK"; and then proceeded to buy him a bottle of 18 yr Glenlivet...the best I could find on such short notice in Flagstaff.

Right off the bat, she needed new tires since the originals were rotted out. The tire size was an older standard that I was not familiar with...26 x 1 3/8 (French 650A)....but Jenson had some Kenda's which fit the bill and were tan-walled....not white-walled...but tan walled. Wunderbar! I asked my dad's friend when he got this bike and the response was "sometime in the early 80's".....I guess that explains the tire standard.

After fixing her up, taking her apart, putting her back together again (that sucked big time!), cleaning, and lubing...she's finally ready for her debut......Ladies, Gentlemen and Googlebot's....I proudly give you....the Teutonic titwiller from the east.....Lady Von Schtupp!

OK....that's not what I've been talking about. Rather.....I introduce you to my new (new to me...she's really 25 yrs old) Batavus Topper which I've named Lili Von Schtupp:

For those of you not satisfied with the video above, here are her stats:

- 100% original stock build starts with a Reynolds 531 frame
- Raleigh Patterned Steel rims
- Full steel fenders and rubber mud flaps
- Running head and tail lights powered by a bottle generator.
- Metric odometer and speedometer
- Internally geared 3-speed hub by Sturmey Archer; stamped with the designation AB 84....AB is the model, 84 being the year of the build. The AB series hub's feature a gear ratio that cranks 133.3%, 100% and 75% through the range
- Integrated Cable pull Drum brakes.
- North Road handlebars with mounted trigger control for the 3-speed
- Rear rack (that's steel too!) ready for leather panniers
- Original Leather saddlebag with original kit
- Integrated Rear tire lock (you guessed it....steel)
- Made in Holland

She rides like a dream.....but weighs 19.5 kg....or 43 lbs....a bit on the heavy side, but I think that's because she's had one to many schnitzengruben's lately!

Other than investigating a different geared hub, I'm not going to change a thing. You see....since Lili was made for cruising along the canal's....extremely flat canal's I might add; I strain to get her 19.5kg up the hills every time I take a trip to Joe's or the grocery store. Pretty much, I'm hammering out of the saddle in 1st gear....the entire way home. Add in a load of groceries....or a case of beer.....and that makes me tired...."tired of playing the game....again, again.....and again.......ahhhhh, let's face it.....everything below the waist.....is kaput!"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mile 72 was cool, Mile 80...not so much

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to pet wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.
- Yamamoto Tsunetomo - Hagakure: Book of the Samurai

For starters, I am not a student of Samurai history, lore, philosophy or tradition. To say so would be trite and moreover, false. However, I ran across a partial quote of Mr. Tsunetomo's in the latest issue of Dirt Rag which I received just before leaving for the Crazy 88 and felt compelled to look it up further, given it's similarity to the much quoted; "You don't have to be having fun, to have fun". With this, I swapped just about any obstacle with "pain"....and I had the perfect mantra for the Crazy 88.

One disclaimer....this will not be a picture post....this will be a blow by blow account of my ride as I remeber it...If you want pictures, refer to my two previous posts. My previous posts were of my last two training sessions leading up to the Crazy. This is a brutal and truthful account of my experiences in the Crazy 88 which constitute my first ever race...much less an endurance race. For pics and details on the Crazy 88, please check out Nate's site, here.

I started with Tsunetomo's wisdom in my head.....regardless of the weather, or how I felt....or any other condition for that matter; I was going to accomplish the goal I'd been working towards ever since I started physical therapy on my knee back in May. In the end, the ability for me to accomplish what I wished would not be dictated by external forces; rather, my ability would be limited by my own doubts....everything else was outside of my control...to include the 41 degree temps the night before which made for a chilly start.

I don't have much to say about the first 44 miles. Perhaps there is not much to be said of contentment...which sums up the first half of the race. Folks popped off the front with a lot of energy...and I was happy to slowly move to the back of the pack...

...resigned to run my own race no matter the cost save completion. I figured I was in for 12.5 hours or riding....so the first 10 minutes were nothing to me. Folks whom I had previously talked to about riding together left me in their dust.....I was fine with this. However, within 2 miles...I was passing folks again who just shortly before had exhibited much gusto.....yet my tempo never changed. I was sticking with my tempo and would not be drawn into a chase. This was a long day and I knew my tempo would carry me home....I just needed to keep it going.

At the turn off to some sweet singletrack called "Pick-up Sticks" at about mile 9.4 and 58 minutes into the ride....I ran into yet more riders who were stopping for a break after the 1552 ft climb to the highest elevation on the day - 9300 ft. Before descending, I chatted with BrianC who was riding his rigid SS. I let him go first knowing he was a strong descender and that I was not, especially in this section littered with downed trees (get the name now?). However, I surprised myself as I bombed the track much faster than I did in my pre-rides of the trail. I even managed to clean some log hops which had stymied me in previous attempts. Maching out of Lockets Meadow, I found myself using my outside leg in turns as an outrigger on the teeth-rattling, steep forest road descent down to the pumice mine. This was where I was really glad I was not on a rigid. On one occasion as I was rounding a right hand turn, a red chevy pickup was almost run off the road by me as I came around a turn at 30 mph. Sorry pickup guy, I had no choice to pick a sloppy line.....I was on washboard and barely hanging on as it was.....so I continued on. It was somewhat disheartening to know that I had just descended roughly 2000 ft in mere minutes...yet knowing that I would have to regain that elevation which would take more than just minutes.

The climb on forest road 418 was, to me, the mental test piece of the 1st lap. Most folks thought of it as an easier portion of the route, focusing instead for the AZ trail portion which was later on....but I knew better. 418 sucked the life out of me last time I rode it with it's sun exposure, deceivingly open expanse and gradual, but steady climb to mile 24.5 at 8500 ft. I guess folks falsely reasoned, "Just how bad can a forest road really be?" How about momentum sucking washboard? I, for one, would rather have techy singletrack ascending 1000 feet, than washboard on a forest road.....I'll later regret this statement. In any event, I settled into the grind and kept my tempo. I yo-yo'd with some riders this entire section to the 1st aid station where we found bacon being fried and beers being consumed. 2 out of the 3 major climbs on the 1st half of the day had just been ticked off and 3000 ft out of the 10000 ft of elevation I needed to climb on the day was behind me. Now for where I knew I could shine....the AZ trail.

I feel like I smoked the AZ trail climb. I don't remember how many folks I encountered resting, me passing them, or me riding with and then passing on this stretch. I think some folks underestimated the effects that the rutty singletrack combined with the climb from 8000ft to 9000ft found within this section would have on them. Upon arrival at the crossing to Snowbowl road, I entered into the only section which I had not ridden; however my feelings were high as I knew my lunch awaited me and the start of the second half...which in my mind, was easier than the first. It was on this stretch that I came upon a buddy of mine, Chollaball; who was standing around with 3 or 4 other riders trying to make sense of their GPS tracks relative to the orange flag marker that was tied around a branch. Someone was off in the woods looking for a trail to match the GPS track, but could not find it. Perhaps it was because I was fresh on the scene and not part of the group-think that made me say..."I see single track heading east and it's going in the right direction....so I'm gonna take it". Chollaball agreed.....I think everyone else continued to hem and haw back at the junction for a little bit....I don't know.....we never saw them again. For the rest of the 1st loop, Cholla and I bombed down some wonderful trail and rolled into the basecamp at 5 hrs and 5 minutes after starting....41.5 miles later and 5400ft of elevation gained.

After eating a hurried lunch

...which consisted of half of an everything bagel, honey and peanut butter which I finished while putting on my gloves;

....a refill of my water bladder, a change of my socks and as much electrolyte drink as I could stomach....I pushed off after 15 minutes of rest (doing all of the above) to find Chollaball standing there saying, "I'm heading out". I told him I was too...and off we went.

I fully expected him to again smoke me and be gone as Cholla is a far stronger descender than I. Yet I was able to hang on his back wheel for the blindingly dust-filled, hour-long descent down 1500 ft to the pinon lands below. It felt great to give the legs a rest, but every descent reminded me that I was taking a loan out on something which would be repaid in full later in the day.

Somewhere at mile 55...Cholla and I ran into one of his friends, dgangi, who was was not only lost, but heading the wrong way under some train tracks....with a blown fork. After a minute of hurried conversation, we talked his friend into continuing on the ride despite his stanchions spewing oil with every compression all over his front brakes, shoes and tires. I reasoned that the worst of the descending was behind him and that he only needed to go another 10 miles before he got to a point of no return....at which he would have to stick to the route to return home anyways. To be a smart ass, I reminded him that he might want to refrain from using his front brakes for the rest of the ride. I'm not sure if he thought this was funny or rude...but it made me chuckle!

Riding on in the heat of the day, the cursing in the soft sand and ash from the cinder cones found on the SE portion of the route became more prevalent. I took Tsunetomo's saying to mind and kept on moving, paying no mind to how much of a pain it was to sink, stall and then walk out of these traps. The only thing I could control was my will to keep going, everything else was merely a distraction. I did, however, take to talking & cajoling my knee into fighting the good fight...outloud.

For most of my time that day, I had reasoned that I had two benchmarks to hit mentally on the second half of the day. First off, I knew that mile 62 for me would be big in a symbolic way. I have never ridden any more than 62 miles, so off the bat I savored this as a quiet victory. My only celebration was to mention it to Cholla once my odometer read 63 miles...however Cholla was in his pain cave and not accepting calls at that time. So we rode on in silence.

The second benchmark which was more tangible was Fischer Point at the end of Walnut Canyon. Fischer Point was found at mile 66 and represented to me, the beginning of the ride home. All other points on the course were taking us farther away from the finish...as the crow flies and route wise. However Fischer Point was where the course turned north and started the final climb back to basecamp. This became a point of no return to me.....to get home, I had to take the route more or less after Fisher Point. Upon reaching this benchmark, I felt elated and great. All I had to do now was go home...

Riding into Flagstaff at mile 72 was surreal. Seeing the hustle and bustle of folks moving around, not on bikes, not covered in dirt, drinking beers, shopping for....stuff....it all formed a weird illusion in my mind. My existence had been defined by only one thing that day and this snapped me back into a place I did not want to be....a reminder of things softer, easier and relaxed. Running low on water, Cholla needed to find a hose...so he filled up a water bottle off of the side of someones house, took a drink only to curse and spit it out. I laughed....the water must have been in that hose for the past decade....it was no good. dgangi and I assured him that we would pass a bar or two where he could fill up. Which leads me to my next temptation. Coming so close.....nay.....riding right by some of the downtown watering holes...I was tempted to get sidetracked and drink a beer before finishing, yet we stayed on track after refilling our water at Rendevous.

It was at mile 76 that the realization sunk in....I still had 1500 ft of climbing to do before finishing...and my IT band in the right knee was getting grumpier and grumpier. It had started becoming sore on the 1st half of the loop, but I've learned to manage it on long climbs by selectively using my left knee for the heavy duty pumps needed sometimes to get the tempo up. On a forest road...this is easy. However the last 10 miles or so and 1500 ft of climbing would not be on forest roads...they would be on singletrack with a few rocks thrown in for which I would have to haul myself and the rear wheel over. I would need both knees and both legs to help me up...sometimes as conditions dictate, I would have no choice but to use only my right leg. I started doing math in my head to distract myself and to calculate when we would roll in at the finish....it actually looked like not only would I would beat my own estimate, we would come in under 11 hours...if only I could keep a reasonable pace up Schultz.
What normally would be a reasonable pace up Schultz, would become a trial after such a long day.

Gritting my teeth through some of the ups, Cholla and I made our way up the last climb on Schultz Creek to the finish. At less than a mile from the finish, my chain got sucked between my spokes and cassette. Stopping carefully, I started pulling on the chain. Incredulous at the notion that my
only mechanical on the day would occur less than a mile from the finish, I soon accepted it and started working to free the thing! Cholla rolled up 15 seconds later and thankfully held onto my bike as I used both hands to free my chain. After what seemed like an eternity, I was off and riding again....this time with Cholla leading. Cholla and I had ridden the last 10 miles of the 1st loop and all of the 2nd loop....it was clear we would finish at the same time.....or would we?

Rounding the last turn and heading towards the finish line...I saw Cholla pick it up...so I matched him...figuring we were going to enter camp in style and looking strong. Once I pulled beside him....I poured a little more gas on the fire. What once had been tired muscles with nothing left to give, became driving pistons of fury. On seeing that I was clearly trying to race him...he glanced over at me and said, "Oh you asshole!"; and then dropped another few gears into play and pulled ahead in the last 20 feet or so. I decided to dump my bike early in front of the drinking crowd of racers and party-goers which had congregated around the fire, BBQ and the beer. I figured that I could make a run for the sign-in sheet faster than he could navigate his bike through the party. Cat calls and cheers erupted as I stumbled forward on legs that for nearly 11 hours, had been moving in a defined circular design....they clearly were not responding well to a differing function such as running. My brain was dismayed at this lack of coordination, yet amused at how clumsy it felt. To quote Hunter M. Thomposn, I felt "like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel
". Much to my chagrin however, Cholla stayed on his bike and pierced the crowd all the way through to the table like a 500lb woman bearing down on a buffet line...beating me to the finish fair and square.

In the end, our times were the same....seconds were not counted on such a long day. I remarked to him that I was happy to come in behind him...he remarked that he was going to give it to me, until helping me with the chain, which he then figured he deserved it. After a slap on the back and a high five....I looked for Mrs. Maadjurguer and hugged and kissed her despite my filth.

I'm not sure of the order of anything after that...but I ate a double cheese burger, a hot dog, a handful of Doritos, a handful of Cheetos, a muffin, 2 giant chocolate chip cookies, one of Nate's beers, shared a growler of 4-Peaks Raj IPA, 2 cups of potato salad, scavenged the pulled pork BBQ bin clean....and then passed out in my tent.

Reflecting back on it now; it feels great to get this monkey off my back. This race for me came down to one thing: Proving my knee could do it. I never doubted I personally could do it...but always have been intimidated by the randomness by which my knee would dictate to me what I can and cannot do. The lead up to this test was testy to say the least.....Mrs. Maadjurger took the brunt of it with my pissy attitude, rigorous training cycle, unrelenting drive to stay on plan, man-child fits when I got off plan and overall inflexibility to do anything else other than do what I deemed necessary to pull my knee to the finish line...all the while, she exhibiting a patience in this relationship which was as critical to my success as my physical therapy. I'll admit...my reasons for being jacked up over this race were nothing more than hubris at the time. Pride in knowing that of course I can do it...I just don't know about this bum knee! By separating myself, the person; from it, my knee...and then to claim this is about my knee finishing, not me....what I was really saying is that I would not fail...my knee would do the failing.

I recognize this as BS, but I also stand by my attitude in that I refuse to be defined by my knee's limitations...rather than my commitment and actions. If I had failed at reaching the end of the 88...I was going to fail by dragging myself on the singletrack, swollen knee before throwing in the towel. I would have been happy at this....rather than not having the chance to fail...or worse, choosing not to allow myself to fail.

Of course....I'm more happy that I did finish!

Total time: 10:54
Moving time: 10:11
Stopped time: 43 minutes
84 miles
9756 ft elevation gained according to my GPS which tends to low-ball the gain... Nate says the course is 10k of gain...and the SRTM data claims 13,674 ft.....although I suspect this is not true ground, rather tree top influenced data which is throwing the numbers higher.

Full race results and split times here.

Also check up on Chollaball's blog soon for pics which he took....he actually brought a camera on the race...weight I could not justify myself, but am now glad he did.

Monday, August 3, 2009

1 week before going Crazy

After pre-riding the northern section of the Crazy 88 two weeks ago, I was curious to see what I would be getting myself into over the course of the second half of the day. It seemed like the northern half was all climbing....so with this in mind, I rolled the southern portion yesterday under blue skies, glorious temps and very tacky trails. It had rained 2 days before, but the trails were all in great shape, still moist and very velcro like......I don't think I ever felt my tires give the entire 53 some odd miles. At 4535 ft elevation gained on the day, it felt very manageable to do in conjunction with the northern half of the 88 which I rolled two weeks ago........

The 1st hour or so was nothing but one long descent with a few hills in between....

This descent will be most welcome after rolling into Schultz Pass halfway through the course on race day (I'll call it participation day). The AZ trail section in and around Walnut was not half bad either....2 or 3 really tight switchbacks littered with babyheads aside......most of the drops were rollable with nice slots.

The only concern of mine is the mud factor should rain be an issue as it was last year. Even after 2 days of drying conditions...my tires were picking up some serious, but manageable mud NE of Walnut Canyon. I suspect that if it is raining on participation day...some of these sections will become a slogfest.

In any event, I have less than a week before the 88; so I'll be resting, spinning some light miles, doing plenty of stretching and yoga....and loading up on carbs and water a few days out. This will be the first time doing anything like this....but I feel that I've done all that I can with respect to prepping my knee for the miles and dialing in my nutrition and hydration for the day. Hopefully I will have a post next week detailing success...which for me is avoiding the big, fat "DNF"....which means I'll be ok with a "DFL". You can track my progress starting 0700 AZT on Saturday by clicking on the link here or following the SPOT hotlink at the top of the menu on the left.....wish my knee luck!